Amplification of attentional blink by distress‐related facial expressions: Relationships with alexithymia and affectivity

Delphine Grynberg, Nicolas Vermeulen, Olivier Luminet
Published Online:
25 Sep 2013
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 49 Issue 5

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The present studies aimed to analyse the modulatory effect of distressing facial expressions on attention processing. The attentional blink (AB) paradigm is one of the most widely used paradigms for studying temporal attention, and is increasingly applied to study the temporal dynamics of emotion processing. The aims of this study were to investigate how identifying fear and pain facial expressions (Study 1) and fear and anger facial expressions (Study 2) would influence the detection of subsequent stimuli presented within short time intervals, and to assess the moderating influence of alexithymia and affectivity on this effect. It has been suggested that high alexithymia scorers need more attentional resources to process distressing facial expressions and that negative affectivity increases the AB. We showed that fear, anger and pain produced an AB and that alexithymia moderated it such that difficulty in describing feelings (Study 1) and externally oriented thinking (Study 2) were associated with higher interference after the processing of fear and anger at short time presentations. These studies provide evidence that distressing facial expressions modulate the attentional processing at short time intervals and that alexithymia influences the early attentional processing of fear and anger expressions. Controlling for state affect did not change these conclusions.

© 2013 International Union of Psychological Science